Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Dartmouth Murders

Accomplished Professors

In 1975, the family went to Germany so Half could become a research fellow at the University of Heidelberg. In 1976, he was hired by Dartmouth College, an Ivy League university in Hanover, New Hampshire. The family headed to the United States.

Susanne and Half Zantop
Susanne & Half Zantop

Founded in 1769, Dartmouth is one of the most esteemed universities in America. It also has a lighter side, as the antics of its fraternities and sororities served as the inspiration for the film comedy Animal House.

Half was a professor at Dartmouth for about 25 years. Writing for the Union Leader, Paula Tracy disclosed that friends had nicknamed Half "Mister Sweetness." Tracy wrote, "Half Zantop would go each November to Mexico with students to study volcanoes and geologic structures. He was fascinated by them and infused this love of subject into the students he took on these trips."

The Boston Globe wrote, "Half's quiet intellect and comfort in being alone was a complement to Susanne's gregarious, high-energy nature, friends said. She would deliver papers on women in 19th century German culture and bake cookies for her students with equal élan."

Susanne edited or authored six books. One that she wrote was the 1997 Colonial Fantasies: Conquest, Family and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770-1870. She dedicated the book "to Half, in more than one sense my better half."  The Boston Globe quotes Audrey McCollum saying that Susanne "had a real dread that her colleagues would find it inadequate." In fact, it won an "Outstanding Book" award from the German Studies Association.

Dartmouth President James Wright
Dartmouth President James Wright

The Zantops were outgoing and sociable people who gave many dinner parties. Tracy wrote, "When the two had friends over, which was frequently, they would be cooking in the kitchen and talking at the same time."

 

Faculty, other employees and students at Dartmouth grieved in the period following the murders. J. Lawrence Scholer in The Dartmouth Review reported, "Many professors in the German department cancelled their classes. Professors in other departments cancelled classes as well, some rescheduling mid-term exams."

Scholer continues that on the Sunday evening after the slayings, Dartmouth College held a private service for community members. Administrators, faculty and students gathered in Rollins Chapel to mourn. Dartmouth President James Wright spoke to those assembled. "We've lost two good friends," he said. "If anyone was marked by the sense of trust, competence, optimism, belonging, friendship, and security, it was these two good friends."

 

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